How to start a successful blog? Well, the idea is simple. You know your niche and you are comfortable sharing your ideas with the world. Just start a personal blog, get some audience, and start making money.
It is that simple. Or is it?
Not necessarily. Statistically, only 5% of bloggers earn real money and can be full-time bloggers. Why is it only 5%?
These days blogging is like a physical business. You have to take it seriously and when you do, the real money will come to you.
Why do people start blogging?
The main factor that drives people to have a successful blog is obviously money. There are many blogging guides on the internet that promise big money if you just start a personal blog.
What happens in reality though, most of the new bloggers start a personal blog, by creating 10 or 20 posts. Then, they don’t see much traffic for the first few months and they simply forget about it. As a result, their blogging career ended before it really started.
However, that 5% of bloggers succeed, and in this article, I list all the important steps you need to follow to be in this group. What you have to know is that it is not a quick process and it can take some time before you earn your first dollar.
Patience is the main key to have a successful blog that makes money
Why should I start a blog?
Blogging is more than just writing posts. It is actually a way to learn and express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. By writing about many different topics you unleash your imagination and become more creative.
Writing a blog can open many different doors for you in the future. During my first 6 months of blogging, I learned so much about different software, blogging, social media, travelling, and other things that I could not have explored if I did not do blogging.
Also, I got in touch with other bloggers by making guest posts or getting links to my websites. One of the best feelings is when other bloggers praise your work – this happened to me many times already and it boosted my confidence.
I think everybody has something to say. You can blog about anything as long as you find your audience.
Most of us do professional jobs and have expertise in some areas. Why not expose your knowledge to a broader audience and get even more credibility in your professional career?
Finally, having a personal blog is a feeling of owning something important that you created by yourself.
What should I know before starting a personal blog?
First of all, you should not be thinking about money when you start a personal blog. Money is just a reward for your hard work later on. Something that gives you a boost to continue.
In short below are the things you have to know before starting a personal blog:
- select your niche where you specialize and you can easily write about it. For example, it could be as broad as ‘Travelling in Australia’ or as detailed as ‘Agility courses for dogs’.
- purchase a domain name that clearly represents your niche
- purchase a web hosting to store and manage your blog files
- start creating great content
The above are just basic steps and later on, we will talk about them in detail.
As I mentioned already you have to treat your blog like a business to create a brand that will be recognized by a broader audience.
In summary, this is what you need to know after you start a personal blog:
- Post your own content
- Post regularly: 2-3 posts per week
- Use SEO low competition keywords to rank faster with Google
- Make sure to use photos, videos and infographics in your posts
- Add statistics and tables as Google loves it
- Promote your blog by being active in social media
- Promote your blog with different backlink strategies
Is it possible to earn money considering there is a big competition?
Yes, it is possible to earn money blogging. The most important thing though is to find your niche where you can provide your content and find readers that like it.
More traffic = More people clicking your links = More money you can make
Thus, your focus for the first 6 months should be to create as many good articles as possible and promote your blog. After that, once you have your audience there are numerous ways you can monetize your blog.
Can I start a personal blog if I am not a technical person?
Nowadays, blogging platforms are optimised for any type of user. WordPress, the platform we will be using in this tutorial, is made the way you can easily add whatever components you need making your work very flexible.
Simply, with WordPress, you have full control of your blog.
Once you set up your WordPress blog you don’t need to change it later to any other platform.
How much does it cost to start a new blog?
The first step is to register your domain. I recommend registering it with a trusted domain registrar and not with a web hosting provider. The reason is that if you want to change your hosting provider in the future it is difficult to do so as your domain and hosting are with one service.
The cheapest domain names start from $1.30/year, and .com domains are available from $9/year. I recommend setting up a .com domain as it is the most used extension on the internet allowing your blog to be found easier by users.
Then you have to purchase hosting to store your website online. With SiteGround you can start a new blog for $83.90 per year.
There are cheaper alternatives for hosting but I recommend SiteGround as it is fast and reliable service. They have a free CDN (Content Delivery Network – to speed up your site) and SSL (to make your site secure) and also the best customer service.
I will also provide you with cheaper alternatives with discounts so you can start your blogging journey today.
Are you ready to start your personal blog? Let’s do it together with my step-by-step guide.
#1 Pick your niche and name
When picking your niche it is important to know that blogging is a business opportunity. Utilizing your skills, interests, and experience will create the best topic you can blog about. The rest is just mechanics to get you there.
When picking a custom domain name make sure to check the below rules.
Create a domain with .com extension (or it is called TLD)
More than 50% of domains are .com domains and this type of domain has the most authority with Google.
Also, when people type a domain name they are likely to put .com at the end instead of .net, .org, .co.uk, etc.
In the next step, I will guide you through the process of checking your idea and finding the right name.
Make your blog name descriptive
Make sure your domain name has a word or words that best describe your blog. If your blog is about travelling and cooking it could be e.g. traveltocook.com or if it is a blog about blogging tips like this one it could be bloggingWithTom.com.
Don’t lock yourself to a location or word
If you call your travel domain brisbanetravel.com you will lock yourself to Brisbane only and posting about other destinations may confuse your readers as your domain has Brisbane in its name.
I called this blog opinionised.com as I wanted to have blogging tips and software reviews in this blog.
Don’t call your domain similar to some big websites
It will be more difficult to out beat big websites if your name is very similar. For example, there is a good website called traveller.com and if you call your blog mytraveller.com who do you think Google will show first when people search for it?
Check if your name is available in social media
Social Media is the place where you first start promoting your blog. It would be good if your social accounts have the same or very similar name to your domain. This way users can find you easier, so make sure you check it before purchasing a domain.
Don’t use special characters in your name
Avoid hyphens or any special characters in your name. Note that your domain should be easy to spell, write, and also easy to remember.
#2 Register your domain
NameCheap is among the best domain registrars on the internet and I always use it when purchasing or renewing domains. One of the biggest advantages of NameCheap is that it gives you free WHOIS protection.
Other domain registrars offer it as a service for which you have to pay in addition to your domain cost.
WHOIS is a service to protect your personal details from the public and keep it private.
The process to register your domain is very easy.
Let’s do it together.
- Click here to go to NameCheap and type a name you thought of
- As I mentioned I suggest a .com extension but if you want to choose something different check the list and you can find a domain for as cheap as $1.29. As for this example, I use bloggingwithTom.com as a domain name I want to purchase.
3. Check if the domain name you typed is available for purchase. If not try to manipulate your keywords to create something similar that you like.
4. Once your domain name is available click the Add to Cart button.
5. On the next screen you will be asked to add some additional options to your domain. Just ignore it and click on the Checkout button at the bottom.
6. Below is the final screen before your purchase. You notice that WhoisGuard is free for the entire life of your domain. This is great as not all domain name registrars give it for free.
Make sure you select the Auto-Renew button as you really don’t want to lose your domain when your blog is performing well and earning money.
7. Click the Check Out button to confirm your purchase.
#3 Get a web hosting
Once you secured your domain, the next thing is to set up your web hosting. In this tutorial, I use SiteGround as a web hosting service.
SiteGround is known as a very reliable service that provides excellent quality and customer service. They have a great support team, and usually, someone from customer support reaches me within a few hours to solve the problem.
- Click here to go to SiteGround and click on WordPress Hosting
2. Select StartUp Plan. Normally the StartUp plan costs $19.99/month, but you can get it for only $6.99/month. You can buy hosting for up to 36 months. If you feel like creating more then one website feel free to select GrowBig plan and safe in longer term.
3. In the next step, select ‘I already have a domain and put the domain name we set up in the previous step. In my case it was bloggingwithTom.com.
It is possible to set up your domain name with SiteGround but I don’t recommend it as the price is higher and it would be difficult to transfer your website to a different hosting provider later on if you want to.
Once you have your domain name in the box click ‘Proceed’.
Buying a domain with a hosting provider is not a good idea. In case you want to transfer your website to a different hosting provider, it is a nightmare to do so.
4. In the final step provide your details. Make sure you provide your name and correct address.
Under Hosting Services select ‘Startup Hosting Plan’ and your nearest Data Center. Also, you can select different periods between 12 to 36 months. Normally when you buy hosting for a longer period you save a lot but if you are not sure just select 12 months.
5. For now ignore the ‘Extra Services’. Provide your credit card details and once you are ready confirm the Terms of Service and click ‘Pay Now’. After a few seconds, you should get the confirmation message.
If SiteGround monthly price is above your budget, below I list alternative, cheaper options that are fast, reliable, and user friendly.
The process of setting up hosting with the above hosting provider will be very similar to SiteGround. Well done! Now you have a domain and web hosting.
#4 Install WordPress
Now, it is time to set up your WordPress site, so click ‘Proceed to Customer Area’.
6. Once you are in the Customer Area click on ‘Set up site’. On the next screen, click ‘Start New Website’.
7. Next, select WordPress as your website platform. Below provide an email and password to create your WordPress account.
Make sure you select a long and secure password that cannot be guessed easily. The last thing you want is some hacker getting access to your website and making a mess.
WordPress and SiteGround have two separate logins so make sure to store them in a safe place.
8. On the last screen, you skip any extras and click ‘Finish’.
9. There is one more important step now to connect your domain with your SiteGround website. Below ‘Point Your Domain’ there are two DNS server names that you need to place in NameCheap, the domain registrar you purchased your domain from.
10. Go to your NameCheap account, click Dashboard and the ‘Manage’ button next to your domain. Place these two DNS names under NameServers -> Custom DNS and click the green tick on the right to confirm.
11. It may take several minutes for your website to be linked with your domain. As for this example I navigated to my domain address: bloggingwithTom.com and if everything was connected I could see the below screen.
12. What you see at your first run is an empty WordPress template without a theme applied. Don’t worry, we make it look better in the next step.
#5 Install the right WordPress theme
The appearance of your website is one of the most important things. When people visit your blog the first time, they immediately assess if they like it or not.
Very often happens that if your blog is not visually appealing they leave and never come back. Thus, installing the right theme for your blog is a must.
There are two options you can go for when selecting the theme.
First, you need to get to your WordPress dashboard where you can manage your website.
The easiest way to navigate to your WordPress dashboard is by typing wp-admin at the and of your URL, e.g. bloggingwithTom.com/wp-admin, and provide your username and password you set up in step 7 when installing WordPress.
Install a free WordPress theme
First, let’s see how to find, browse and preview a theme.
Navigate to Appearance -> Themes and click ‘Add New’ button on the top. You will see a huge number of options to select from. The good thing is you can click on ‘Preview’ to see the theme before installing it.
The free themes I can recommend are Divi, Astra, OceanWP, Neve, Ultra, or GeneratePress. Also, note that most free themes have paid versions as well, so you can start free and later upgrade for more options.
If you are not sure what theme to select just use one of the defaults that come in your search. Once you have a few posts created, you get a better look at how everything looks, and then you can change to a theme you like better.
Once you are happy with your selection just click ‘Install’ and after installation is complete navigate to your website URL to see the changes.
Buy and install a professional theme
Another option is to buy a professional theme. The advantage of this approach is that you set up everything right from the word go.
This way you can focus on creating more content while your website is looking good already.
I recommend premium themes from WP Engine StudioPress. The selection is pretty awesome. You can actually get a StudioPress theme package for free with any WP Engine hosting plan (starting from $27/month).
#6 Set important WordPress settings
Before diving any further let’s set a few important WordPress settings and familiarize yourself with WordPress.
Change default website url
By default, your website will be called http://yourwebsite.com. To make it more appealing you need to place the ‘www’ after HTTP://, e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com.
Changing Permalinks to Post Name
To rank better with search engines like Google or Bing it is better to use post URL with dashes. After changing this setting, every time you create a post, its title will be divided with dashes, e.g. post with the title ‘How to rank faster in Google’ will be changed to how-to-rank-faster-in-google.
Navigate to Settings -> Permalinks and change Common Settings to ‘Post Name’.
Setting up Menu
Depending on the theme you used for your blog you will have different menu pages set up as default. Here you can select a page and click ‘Add to Menu’. This action will bring the selected page to the right side. From there you can drag and drop your page to the place you want it to be.
Navigate to Appearance -> Menus and make your changes.
#7 Create your most important pages: About and Contact
Remember that these days to achieve the success you cannot stay anonymous. Over time you need to create your brand and be recognised by a broader audience.
A good starting point when you just created a blog is two pages: About and Contact.
Let’s talk about them separately.
Create About page
About page is very important. People who visit your blog (your potential customers), will often navigate to your about page to see who you are. If you provide tips and advice in your posts it is essential to have a connection with your readers and the first thing to achieve that is through the about page.
On the about page, you can write a little bit about yourself, state who you are, and even better if you provide your story. How did I become a blogger or did my story to blogging would really get you closer to your readers?
Below is an example from my travel blog about page.
Create Contact page
The contact page can be as simple as the one below. However, once you grow your website you will add more details.
For example, you can have a ‘Work with Me’ section where you provide information about Guest or Sponsored posts in your blog. Also, you can offer your services. Finally, you can list reasons for people to contact you or to not contact you, e.g. I don’t accept guest posts.
#8 Install WordPress plugins
There are numerous WordPress plugins you can install on your website, but what are they?
A WordPress plugin is a piece of functionality that is added to your blog. It could be as simple as compressing an image, installing additional fonts, having a form builder, and as complicated as making a website backup, having a custom website builder or SEO plugin.
One thing that is worthy of notice is that the more plugins you install the slower your will be your website. Thus, install only plugins that are essential for the current state of your website. Plugins that are not used should be uninstalled.
Below I list all plugins that are essentials to run your blog. These plugins are the minimum best configuration that I use for all my blogs which are optimized for security, speed, and images.
Antispam Bee will protect you against spam. Once your website is open to the world, shortly, you will get a lot of spammy comments and emails. This plugin will take care of it.
This is a must plugin (or any alternative) to have to secure your website against any type of intruders. It offers 30+ ways to lock down WordPress and protect your blog.
RankMath or Yoast SEO
As you have probably heard already SEO is a key to your success. When posting a new blog post it is essential you use the right keywords and optimize your content to achieve a close to 100% score.
This way you have a better chance to rank higher in Google. Ranking higher means more traffic, and more traffic means more customers in your blog.
Both plugins have a free and paid version. I personally use RankMath as it is cheaper and has more functionality.
For selecting the right keyword I recommend Keysearch for any new blogger as it is a great tool to do keyword research and it does not cost much.
Site Kit by Google
The only way to see if you have any visitors to your page is by installing a Google plugin. There are many different plugins but I use Site Kit by Google as it is a lightweight plugin and it shows what I want.
Once you install the plugin you need to connect it to Google Analytics to make it work.
Nothing is more important than having a nice and secure backup in case something goes wrong with your WordPress website. By using UpdraftPlus you can make backups on demand as well as schedule them every day.
Also, note that this is a WordPress backup plugin but you also have a daily backup with SiteGround – the hosting provider. Thus, using additional plugins you have two secure backups.
SG Optimizer (only SiteGround customers)
It will also allow you to set up CDN (Content Delivery Network) for free to make your website being distributed across all continents for faster access.
On top of everything, SG Optimizer allows you to configure an SSL certificate (provided for free by SiteGround)
WP Rocket – the best optimization plugin
Another great optimization plugin that is a definite leader in the market is WP Rocket. As I mention, if you used SiteGround as your hosting provider you can use SG Optimizer for free.
However, if you decided to use a different hosting provider and you want to optimize your website WP Rocket is the way to go.
It is the most powerful caching plugin that will improve the speed of your WordPress website, SEO rankings, and conversions.
#9 Write your first posts
Let’s summarize what we have done so far:
- Picked your niche domain
- Purchased a domain
- Purchased a web hosting
- Installed WordPress
- Installed WordPress theme
- Set important WordPress settings
- Created About and Contact pages
- Installed necessary plugins
Now, it is time to do real work – writing some posts. Probably you had some post ideas ready in your mind before creating your successful blog.
In terms of writing quality let me list a few tips.
- you always need to provide value to your readers by writing a high-quality content
- make sure your post is SEO optimized with low competition keywords (I recommend Keysearch as your first SEO tool)
- make sure you include photos and videos inside your post to make it more interactive
- use readable fonts (you won’t guess how many blogs have fonts that are really hard to read)
- bold your text in some areas to let Google know this is an important part
- format your headings with H2 and H3 headers (post title is your H1 header)
- use bullet points
- lastly, but more importantly, make sure your posts do not have grammatical errors
#10 Promoting your blog
Social media – your first traffic
After writing your first post I recommend promoting it immediately on social media. If you have already social accounts under your name you can do it there already.
However, I recommend setting up separate accounts for all main social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social media will be your first traffic as no one knows about your website and you have to let people know you are there.
When I started blogging I found Facebook groups as the easiest way to get traffic to my blog. The way it works is this. You can search for your niche Facebook group, read their rules and apply to join. Once you are a member of the group you can create a post in this group.
You always try to find a group with the biggest number of members (preferably over 100k) so more people will see your post. Note that most of the groups are moderated so make you when creating a post is relevant and not spammy so it can be easily approved.
Pinterest is also one of the best social platforms where you can create individual pins that link directly to your posts. You can even boost your pins to a greater audience by using Tailwind.
The way it works you simply pin someone’s pins and others do the same. This way your pins get greater exposure and you build more followers and traffic.
I recommend writing at least 10 but preferably 20 posts to move to the next step – guest posting.
Guest post – build up your domain rating
Once your website is well established with 20 posts it is time to approach other bloggers in your niche and ask them if you can write a guest post.
The way it works is, you provide them with your unique content and they will give you 1 or 2 backlinks to your website. Backlinks are super important to build your domain authority and also another way to bring some traffic to your website.
This is my sample guest post that I created from my travel blog for myrigadventures: 11 Best Kimberley Attractions.
Guest posting can be time-consuming but it is one of the best ways to create a healthy backlink to your website.
Infographic is a collection of charts, labels, images, and text that summarise a topic. A sample infographic related to this post could be “How to become a successful blogger” which visually shows step by step how to do it.
Another great infographic option is a custom map. I used that for my Bungle Bungles post in my travel blog. I simply created a sample map based on Google Maps and edited it in a free graphical program Gimp. It was not much work at all.
Then, I approached some website owners saying: “Hi, I just created this nice, custom Bungle Bungles map. If you want to add it to your website use this embedded code with a link to my website”. As simple as that. After that, a few bloggers decided to add it to their website (AussieTowns – Bungle Bungles)
There are many other ways to build backlinks and promote your blog but that is probably beyond this article. I think these three options are a good start to keep you busy.
#11 Make money from your blog
Monetizing your blog is the last thing you have to do to start making money. As I mentioned already this can only happen once you have at least 1000 visitors per month.
Doing it earlier is a kind of a waste of your time as there won’t be anybody clicking your links.
There are many ways to earn money from your website so let’s list the most important ones here.
Out of many ways to monetize your blog, affiliate marketing is the easiest and can be started at any time of your blog life.
There are two types of affiliate marketing:
- affiliate networks
- affiliate programs
An affiliate network is a centralised website where merchants sign up with a product they offer. You as an affiliate can sign up with the same affiliate network, select one of the products on offer and promote it on your successful blog.
There are many types of affiliate networks. In some you can promote any products by simply signing up, in others, you have to have an established website with a lot of traffic to be able to promote any product.
The easiest affiliate network that you can start using immediately is ClickBank, ShareASale, or JVZoo. In the last two, you still have to be approved but normally that’s not a problem.
When applying to promote a product make sure to provide all your details and state why you like the product, why you want to promote it, and sat how you are going to promote it. They normally accept most of the applications.
The way it works is simple. You sign up, select a product, copy your affiliate link and paste it somewhere relevant on your website.
An affiliate program is a single product that is offered by the merchant and the affiliate portal is provided by them.
One of the examples of affiliate programs is NordVPN, Bluehost or Elementor. You have to navigate to their page and sign up. Once you filled your application you have to send it for approval.
Note here, that not all merchants will accept your affiliate application. The key factor to be successful is always a professionally designed website with good traffic.
If your expertise is in some area and your website is only an extension to promote your business, you can list your services and work as a freelancer.
Considering you are a website developer or blogging or SEO expert? Just list all your services on your contact page and people will definitely contact you for some work.
Google Ads is the simplest way to start monetizing your blog. You only have to sign up with Google Ads and the ads will be inserted into your blog automatically. You can start any time but don’t expect big earnings if you don’t have much traffic on your website.
Also, the annoying part of ads is they appear in the middle of your content making your posts less readable. If some of your readers don’t like advertisements they may leave your website and never come back.
I still think the best way to earn money from your blog is through affiliate marketing.
You can only use this option if your blog gained some good traffic and reputation. What you can do is to update your contact page with a statement that you accept sponsored posts (they pay you to guest post on your website).
I can guarantee there will be people willing to pay you to have their post with a backlink to their site.
How to start a successful blog Executive Summary
If you got to this point – Congratulations!
It was quite a journey but I hope my simple steps and further instructions helped you to setup up your first successful blog, promote it and make money in the future.
Blogging is great and especially these days, in the covid-19 era, all blogs have double value. Why? Because many people stay in isolation and cannot travel.
Many of them change their shopping habits and purchase products and services online. They have to find a good resource of information and that resource can be your blog.
If you do your blogging right and treat it as a business, one day you may quit your job and be a full-time, successful blogger. Who would not like that?
If you have any questions or you think I missed something important please make a comment and I will get back to you.